If you’re a nursing student, now is a good time to start thinking about your post-college budget. Believe it or not, finding a budget plan that works for you now will help you stay on track financially after graduation.

What can you do now that will make a difference when you are out of school? Educating yourself and trying out different methods of saving (and, yes, even spending) money is the first step in a successful post-college budget. There are many approaches to budgeting and what works for your parents, your best friends, or your classmates might now work for you.

Here are a few things you can do now to help get you ready.

1. Know Your Student Loan Amounts

This means more than knowing you have a certain dollar amount that you will owe once you are done with this round of school. You’ll need to take a look at your loans to understand when you need to start paying them back and what kind of interest you’re committed to. Some loans are fixed, meaning the interest rate you pay will remain the same for the life of the loan. Others are variable, meaning the interest rate can fluctuate over the course of the loan, and that means your monthly payments aren’t always going to be the same. Know the total amount you owe, when your payment begin, and how many months your loan is expected to take to pay back. Even more importantly, understand how much money it is going to cost you every month to pay your loans.

2. Think About Cost of Living

Once you know how much you’ll owe every month, start planning for other costs for your post-college budget plan. Think about what you spend money on every month now and if that will change. How much will it cost to find a place to live (including utilities and parking)? Figure out how much you will need for necessities like groceries and transportation (public or a car). There’s also the less fixed costs of entertainment, travel, clothing, and toiletries and household supplies to consider.

3. Plan for an Emergency

Unexpected costs happen. Cars break down, Living situations change. Health issues crop up. It’s a good idea to have the equivalent of three to six months of living expenses in a fund you can access. It’s probably hard to think of getting that amount now, but starting to build up that emergency fund now is good. Even five dollars a week will add up.

4. Consider Job Options

What’s the job market like in the area you plan to live? If you’re in an area where there are few options, consider looking at other locations. Decide how much of a commute you’re willing to have or if you want to move to an area where you can have more choices at jobs and salaries.

5. Estimate Your Salary

Now that you have a target amount of your costs, that helps you decide on how much of a salary you’ll need to live without going into debt. You should be able to make enough money to cover your expenses, have some savings, and (hopefully) have some left for fun. If you’ve got sticker shock from the first amount, this gives you some time to think of alternative ways you can still have the life you want. If you live in a high-rent area, getting a place with roommates can drastically reduce your living costs. With rent and utilities divided among many people, the savings is likely significant. Is there a way you would get a second job to make up the slack if you need to? What would work for you?

6. Look at Budget Styles

Get online and poke around to see what kinds of post-college budget plans are out there. From Pinterest to Debt.org to Money Under 30, you will find plenty of options to try out.

Budgeting isn’t the most fun task, but it makes an enormous impact on your life. The more you know before you graduate, the more control you’ll have over your choices.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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